Ben Simmons needs to improve his aggressiveness (again)


Some of the same criticism that characterized Ben Simmons‘ collegiate career is beginning to affect his Philadelphia 76ers career.

Remember when Ben Simmons was largely regarded as the best prospect since LeBron James and then everybody forgot about him as he sat out for a year? This was supposed to be the year of Lonzo Ball, yet the Philadelphia 76ers‘ stud quickly shut down any potential Rookie of the Year ‘race’.

In some ways, that’s a shame considering how ridiculously talented Donovan Mitchell is.

Regardless, Simmons has balled out this year. He’s already among the best guards in the league, and seems primed for his first All-Star appearance to boot. He’s not without his flaws, though, and one flaw in particular has been hurting him lately: his lack of aggressiveness.

This was the biggest criticism of Ben’s game coming out of LSU, and it’s something that’s once again becoming his biggest issue. He simply isn’t attacking the lane and looking for his own offense enough, something that may be affected (whether it be directly or indirectly) by the Hack-a-Simmons Washington started a couple weeks ago.

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We’ve seen Simmons at his best, and that involves a steady dosage of scoring. He has the physical tools and ambidexterous touch needed to get to the rim and finish consistently, but that simply hasn’t been his goal in recent games. It has been especially problematic late in games, when Joel Embiid has had to take on the lion’s share of Philly’s offensive workload without nearly enough help from his No. 2 option.

In his last two games, Simmons has scored just seven and 12 points respectively. One game went to overtime, while the other went to triple-overtime. In the first game against Minnesota, Simmons didn’t score until there was under two minutes left in regulation, when he finally flushed one home off a backdoor cut — which was the result of an Embiid post-up, I might add.

For someone as talented as Simmons — even if passing is the focal point of his game — he can’t be that limited as a scorer. We’ve seen him put up points before, and this is by no means an issue with his limited jumper. He just needs to be more aggressive in getting to the rim and finishing.

More of his SportsCenter Top 10 dunks would be nice.

Again, Simmons had this issue at LSU. He’d pass up opportunities to score in favor of making passes that didn’t always set up better looks. He’d also rely, at times, on lesser talent in important moments. Embiid obviously isn’t “lesser talent,” but avoiding contact to get the ball to an ice-cold Robert Covington, or something of that nature, isn’t always ideal.

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If free throws are what’s scaring him off, it’s a fear he needs to overcome. Even a 55 percent free throw shooter has more value than someone who defers too much down the stretch.

Simmons is a generational talent with legit top-10 potential as a player. His combination of size, athleticism and vision simply doesn’t come around all that often, even in today’s era of hyper-skilled prospects. But this is a hurdle he has to overcome, and something that could keep him from making that great-to-transcendent leap.

Embiid has been dealing with back pain and played career-high minutes in two straight games last week, culminating with a 49-minute outing against Oklahoma City on Friday. With the Sixers kicking off next week with a back-to-back against Chicago and Sacramento, the Sixers may need to lean on Simmons more than usual depending on Embiid’s status.

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Hopefully he puts together some big outings to quell these newfound concerns.